The Modoc reservation lies 1.5 miles northeast of the Quapaw agency (it was formerly a part of the Shawnee reservation), and consists of 4,040 acres, about equally divided as to timber and prairie land, The prairie land is fairly good for grass and farming. The timber land is rather poor, but good for grazing purposes; it lies high and is well watered. The lands show some indications of mineral (lead and zinc). There are lend and zinc mines on the north and southeast of this reservation, and at only a short distance.
The Modoc lands were obtained by treaty June 23,1874, as a permanent home for them, and were held in common until the spring of 1890, they were allotted. The allotment has increased their energy. They received 48 acres each This allotment has given them great satisfaction. They now have 540 acres under fence, of which the fencing for 10 acres was built this year. They are slowly increasing in wealth. They seem contented.
Their houses are very poor; any of them have nothing but dirt floors, with wails plastered tight, and with but 1 window and no ventilation. They generally have 1 room and are crowded to many times their capacity in winter. The tribe numbers 81 in all, 40 males and 44 females. There are 17 children of school age, 11 males and 6 females, who are making rapid progress in reading and writing, and even many of the older ones are learning to read and write English, In 10 years the Modocs have lost 69 by death.
Their horses, mules, cattle, and swine are not numerous; horses, 39; cattle, 66; swine, 128; fowls of all kinds, 470. Their produce, such as corn, potatoes, and other vegetables, can not be estimated. It has been a very dry season and they will not make a full crop.
They are a little darker than the other Indians at this agency. The men are of medium size, stoutly and compactly built, having great powers of endurance, although mammy of them show signs of consumption, which is attributable to their removal from their native land, California and Oregon, as well as to their mode of living. In complexion the women are much lighter than the men, are of larger and better form, and are very industrious. Both men and women wear citizens’ dress entire, and make a creditable appearance. The younger Indians are not as healthy and well formed as the older ones, which shows evidence of physical decay. They learn easily, and some have obtained good educations, still they do not show the deep thought and intelligence of the older generation. These people are decreasing. They dislike very much to mix with the whites or other Indians. Very little crime exists among them. They are inoffensive and law abiding. They have one large and commodious school building, which is well attended by the children. They have no church, but use the schoolhouse for a place of worship. They have one missionary, who belongs to the Society of Friends, or Quakers, who holds regular worship every other Sunday. They attend meeting quite regularly, and many of the younger Modocs are members of this church. Their occupation is wholly farming, and many of them labor for other people; in fact, they are time most industrious Indians at this agency.
An old mourning custom prevails among a few of the older Modocs, When one of a family dies they dig a trench the size of a grave, cover it with straw and dirt, a small opening being left to admit a person. A fire is then built, stones are heated and placed in the cave, and water is poured on and steam generated. A mourner then enters the trench and remains 2 or 3 hours, or until grief is assuaged. He or she, as the case may be, then comes out and another of the grief-stricken family enters, and so on until all have been relieved. This process is kept up for 5 consecutive days, when their mourning troubles are over.
The Modocs have a tradition that their tribe at one time was one of the most numerous and powerful of any on this continent, a happy and contented people before the advent of the white man; that they believed him God, and that God made this country especially for them, and then created them to occupy it. In their old country there was a sacred mountain which all of them visited once in each year to Worship and be cured and relieved of their sins. Their chief, Sear-Faced Charley, famous in the Modoc war in the Lava Beds of California in 1874, is a small Indian of dark complexion, very quick, and as active as a boy of 15 years of age, a very remarkable Indian, now about 60 years of age. Their chief serves during life, and the office is hereditary.
Some still make bows and arrows, but not so much for use as for sale as curiosities to the whites; the women make beadwork and other trinkets of beautiful workmanship, also for sale to the whites. In all business transactions these people are honest, giving and exacting the last farthing; fact, they are considered the most pleasant people at the agency to do business with. This year 8 of the Modocs (aged people) received help in the way of food from the agent.